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Sibel Edmonds Must Be Heard

Sibel Edmonds is the FBI translator turned whistleblower who decided to go public late in 2002 and has been seeking to tell her story about high-level corruption in the United States government involving Turkey and Israel. What makes her story particularly compelling is that the corruption relates to the theft and sale of United States defense secrets, most particularly nuclear technology. Sibel obtained her information while translating Turkish language telephone intercepts directed against several Turkish lobbying groups who had contact with senior officials in the Bush Administration, both at the Pentagon and in the State Department. Many of the officials involved are apparently the same neoconservatives who cooked the books to enable the rush to war against Iraq and who are continuing to urge more wars in the Middle East, most notably against Iran and Syria. Several of them are close allies of leading Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

To stop Sibel from telling her story, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft subjected her to a state secrets privilege gag order after her appearance on CBS's 60 Minutes in October 2002 that not only forbade her providing details of her employment with FBI but also made the ban retroactive so that anything relating to her case would be considered a state secret. Edmonds had been discouraged by her experience with CBS as her most important points wound up on the cutting room floor. Then came the gag order, which she has observed while working assiduously to get bits and pieces of her story out in various ways. In October 2007 she decided to tell all without regard for the consequences, stating that she would provide details of her allegations to any American media outlet that would let her collaborate in the final edit so that her message would not be lost. There were no takers. Last month, The Sunday Times of London decided to pick up her story and has now produced a long feature article called "For Sale: the West's Deadliest Nuclear Secrets" plus two follow-ups. The story was picked up and replayed all over the world, but not by the mainstream media in the United States.

Why should Sibel be heard? Mostly because her story, if true, involves corruption at the highest levels of government coupled with the sale of secrets vital to the security of the United States. One of her claims is that a senior State Department officer who has been identified as Marc Grossman, recorded by the FBI while arranging to pick up bribes from a Turkish organization, also revealed the identity of the CIA cover company Brewster Jennings to a Turkish contact in late 2001. The Turk then passed on the information to a Pakistani intelligence officer who presumably warned the AQ Khan nuclear proliferation network that the CIA was apparently pursuing. Some might call that treason and it should be noted that it occurred two years before Robert Novak's notorious exposure of Valerie Plame and Brewster Jennings which led to the conviction of Scooter Libby.

Edmonds should also be listened to because she clearly had access to the documents that she describes and because she has proven that she is a credible witness. Two US Senators and the 9/11 Commission found her testimony and recollection of facts to be reliable, as did an FBI Inspector General's office internal investigation. More to the point, if Edmonds is telling the truth there are documents in FBI files that would confirm her account. What she is claiming, if it is all true, is fact-based, not speculative.

But the media remains silent in spite of considerable efforts to get them on board and provide some coverage of her very serious charges. Since the recent Sunday Times articles, her story has been brought to the attention of news editors at MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, to PBS's Bill Moyers, to The New York Times, The Washington Times, and to both ABC and CBS news in an attempt to arouse some interest. But there has been no response, not even a courteous "Thank you very much for contacting us...." What are so-called gadflies like Olbermann and Moyers afraid of? The suggestion that the media does not want to face the potential legal consequences of the gag order has been cited but lacks substance as much of the Sibel story is already out in public and the details of her allegations can be pieced together without actually interviewing her in violation of the state secrets privilege. Also, no one in the media has actually claimed that the lack of interest is based on the potential legal consequences. The silence has been deafening, suggesting that other forces are at work.

And it is not just the media. Congress has a responsibility to look into Edmonds' allegations. Congressman Henry Waxman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been stonewalling Edmonds and her supporters, preferring instead to look into steroids use among professional athletes. To be sure, some in the media and Congress are undoubtedly nervous because Edmond's story involves Israel and corrupt officials both in Washington and Tel Aviv. Many of the American former and current officials involved are considered to be particularly close to the Israeli government and to the Israeli lobby AIPAC. Others fear that FBI investigative reports or wiretaps revealing illegal contributions or bribery of congressmen could open up a can of worms that many would prefer to keep closed.

Sibel's critics state that she was only a translator and clearly did not know the "big picture," which might have included a sting operation directed against the nuclear proliferators. That might be true, but if it is, it is up to the government to state flatly that such was the case. Based on my own experience, I cannot believe that senior state department or Pentagon officials would have been used in any such operation both because their parent organizations would never have permitted it and because the CIA would have never sought it in the first place. The dismissal of Edmonds' argument based on her only having been a translator is also weak in that field officers in the FBI and CIA work very closely with translators when trying to discover the meaning of transcriptions of phone calls made by suspects who are deliberately trying to obscure what they are saying or double-talking. Sibel would have had to know what the case being investigated was all about to be effective as a translator, and there is no reason why she would have been denied such information.

It is possible that Sibel Edmonds has made up or embellished a story for reasons that would have to be considered unknowable, though that is not likely based on the evidence currently available. It is also possible that she has made assumptions about what she saw that ultimately will not stand scrutiny. Even if that proves to be true, she still deserves her day in court. Article III of the Constitution of the United States defines treason as giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States. This has been interpreted by US courts to include the selling or betrayal of defense secrets to foreign powers. Sibel Edmonds is talking about treason at the highest levels of the United State government and it is clear that a cover-up is going on orchestrated by the Bush Administration that is being aided and assisted by an acquiescent media. It is time that Sibel's voice be heard.


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